Armed With a Sten Gun and a PIAT, Stanley Hollis Was Fearless
British NCO Hollis stormed pill boxes and lobbed bombs at German artillery
In June 1944, during the Allies’ inland push following their successful landing in Normandy, British Army company sergeant-major Stanley Hollis — from the 6th Green Howards — won the Victoria Cross for two conspicuous acts of gallantry involving two iconic weapons.
By the time he landed on Gold Beach on June 6, 1944, Hollis was a seasoned veteran. He had enlisted in the Territorial Army in 1939. He first saw action with the the British Expeditionary Force in France in 1940. He later fought in North Africa with the Eighth Army and in Sicily in 1943.
“In Normandy on 6 June 1944 Company Sergeant-Major Hollis went with his company commander to investigate two German pill boxes which had been bypassed as the company moved inland from the beaches,” the award citation notes.
“Hollis instantly rushed straight at the pillbox, firing his Sten gun. … He jumped on top of the pillbox, re-charged his magazine, threw a grenade in through the door and fired his Sten gun into it, killing two Germans and taking the remainder prisoners.”
British troops in Normandy. Imperial War Museum photo
Later the same day Hollis put his PIAT anti-tank grenade-launcher to good use against an entrenched German field gun.
“C.S.M. Hollis pushed right forward to engage the [field] gun with a PIAT from a house at 50 yards range … He later found that two of his men had stayed behind in the house … In full view of the enemy who were continually firing at him, he went forward alone [to] distract their attention from the other men. Under cover of his diversion, the two men were able to get back.”
“Wherever the fighting was heaviest he appeared, displaying the utmost gallantry,” the citation continues. “It was largely through his heroism and resource that the company’s objectives were gained and casualties were not heavier, and by his own bravery he saved the lives of many of his men.”
In September 1944, Hollis was wounded and sent back to Britain. That October King George VI awarded Hollis his Victoria Cross. After the war Hollis became an engineer and owned a pub. He died in 1972 at the age of 59.